Marriage Traditions: Their Not-So-Sweet Origins & Our Modern Choices

Marriage is a sacred union celebrated in various ways across cultures and centuries. While many marriage traditions are filled with symbolism, love, and joy, some have darker origins rooted in historical practices that may not align with our modern values. In this article, we’ll explore the not-so-sweet origins of certain marriage traditions and how couples today are making modern choices that better reflect their love and commitment.

The Veil:

Tradition: The tradition of wearing a veil dates back to ancient Rome and Greece when brides would wear them to protect against evil spirits and to symbolize modesty and purity.

Modern Choice: Many modern brides choose to wear veils for aesthetic reasons, while others opt for alternative headpieces or forego veils altogether, focusing on personal style rather than tradition.

Arranged Marriages:

Tradition: Arranged marriages have been practiced for centuries, with families choosing spouses based on social, economic, or political considerations.

Modern Choice: While arranged marriages still exist in some cultures, many couples today prioritize love and compatibility, choosing their partners freely.

Bridal Party and Groomsmen:

Tradition: The tradition of having a bridal party and groomsmen dates back to ancient Rome when bridesmaids and groomsmen dressed similarly to the couple to confuse evil spirits.

Modern Choice: Couples today select bridal parties and groomsmen based on their relationships and support, often with diverse attire and roles, embracing individuality.

The White Wedding Dress:

Tradition: Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress in the 19th century as a symbol of purity and innocence.

Modern Choice: While white remains a popular choice, brides now opt for a range of colors and styles that express their personality and taste.

Exchanging Rings:

Tradition: The practice of exchanging rings dates back to ancient Egypt, symbolizing eternal love.

Modern Choice: Rings remain a symbol of commitment, but couples today may choose alternative metals, stones, or designs that hold personal significance.

Tying the Knot:

Tradition: The phrase “tying the knot” comes from an ancient Celtic tradition where a bride and groom would have their hands bound together with ropes or cloth.

Modern Choice: While the phrase persists, couples rarely incorporate literal knot-tying into their ceremonies, instead emphasizing their commitment in personalized vows.

The Wedding Cake:

Tradition: Ancient Romans broke a loaf of bread over the bride’s head for fertility, which evolved into the modern wedding cake.

Modern Choice: While wedding cakes are still popular, many couples explore alternative dessert options like cupcakes, pies, or dessert bars.

Throwing Rice or Confetti:

Tradition: Throwing rice or confetti originated from ancient cultures as a symbol of fertility and prosperity.

Modern Choice: To reduce environmental impact, couples now opt for biodegradable alternatives like flower petals or birdseed.

Carrying the Bride Over the Threshold:

Tradition: This tradition originated in medieval Europe when it was believed that evil spirits lurked at the threshold. Carrying the bride ensured she didn’t bring these spirits into the home.

Modern Choice: Couples often see this act as a lighthearted gesture rather than a superstition, and some may choose not to observe it.

Dual Surname Naming:

Tradition: Historically, women took their husband’s last name upon marriage, symbolizing the transfer of property.

Modern Choice: Many couples today embrace a variety of naming options, including hyphenation, blending surnames, or keeping their birth names.

Breaking a Glass:

Tradition: In Jewish weddings, the groom breaks a glass to symbolize the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the commitment to mend the world together.

Modern Choice: Couples from various backgrounds may incorporate this tradition into their ceremonies to symbolize unity and shared responsibility.


Marriage traditions have evolved significantly over time, reflecting changes in culture, values, and personal preferences. While some traditions have darker origins, couples today have the freedom to choose which elements they want to incorporate into their weddings. Whether it’s modifying or abandoning certain customs, modern couples are creating ceremonies that truly represent their love, commitment, and shared values. In doing so, they are reshaping the narrative of marriage and forging their own path toward a brighter and more inclusive future.

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